The demand for CPAs is growing across the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the national need for accountants will rise by 10% between 2016 and 2026. Demand is slightly smaller in West Virginia but is still trending in a positive direction. In 2014 the state had 4,800 accountants, and by 2024 that total will grow by 2% to 4,900. The median salary in 2016 was projected at $59,110, but that is likely to increase as companies recruit more accountants. If this sounds like a promising career path, the following guide illustrates exactly how to become a CPA in West Virginia:
Earn a Bachelor's Degree
The West Virginia Board of Accountancy (WVBOA) issues CPA licenses and requires all license holders to meet minimum standards for education:
All CPAs must have a bachelor's degree with at least 150 semester hours or 225 quarter hours. The degree must be earned from an accredited four-year institution. It must also include the following coursework:
At least 27 semester hours of accounting coursework focused on specific topics:
- 6 hours on financial or intermediate accounting
- 6 hours on auditing and financial information systems
- 3 hours on taxation
- 3 hours on managerial, non-profit, government, or cost accounting
- 9 hours of elective accounting courses
At least 27 semester hours of business or business-related coursework focused on specific topics:
- 3 hours on economics
- 3 hours on finance
- 3 hours on marketing
- 3 hours on statistics
- 3 hours on management
- 12 hours on business-related electives
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Complete the Uniform CPA Exam
The Uniform CPA Exam is a standardized test administered to almost all CPA candidates to determine basic skills and aptitude. The exam is administered by the National Association of States Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) through the CPA Examination Services (CPAES).
Follow these steps for success:
Complete the initial application packet from the WVBOA. The packet is available for download online. Applicants may also call the office at (304) 558-3557 with questions and requests.
Mail the completed application to the West Virginia Board of Accountancy, 106 Capitol Street, Suite 100, Charleston, WV 25301-2610. Include the following documents along with the application:
- An official college transcript from whatever institution awarded you a bachelor's degree
- Character witness statements from two non-relatives as well as one CPA
- A 2" x 2" photograph of your face and shoulders
- A completed Letter of Intent to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam
- Any exam fees
Allow the WVBOA some time to review your application and approve your request. You should receive a Notification to Schedule (NTS) from the NASBA within five days of submitting your application. If you do not receive notification within this window, contact the state's exam coordinator at 304-558-3557.
Schedule the time and location you want to take the Uniform CPA Exam. There are testing sites in Charleston and Morgantown. There are testing windows offered in the first two months of each quarter. You are allowed to take as few or any many test sections as you would like during any test session, but you must complete all four within 18 months.
Make special accommodations if necessary. They are available if you can demonstrate a disability or another obstacle that could inhibit test taking. There is a special section on the exam application to make this request. It's also possible to contact the state's exam coordinator directly.
Prepare for the exam and arrive at the testing facility at least an hour before the exam begins.
Expect the NASBA to issue your score to the WVBOA, which will then issue it to you in the mail. If you passed the exam your name will also appear on a list posted on the WVBOA website.
Meet the Experience Requirement
At this point you are well on the way to becoming a CPA. Before granting a license, however, the WVBOA requires all candidates to earn extensive on-the-job experience:
Work for one year in an accounting position. This experience must occur within four years of applying for a CPA license. It can take place in a government office, private accounting practice, non-profit organization, academia, or public accounting firm.
Develop core competencies. The WVBOA expects all CPA candidates to have experience and aptitude in the following subjects:
- Management advisory
- Auditing, compiling, and reviewing financial statements
- Preparing tax returns
- Performing tax research
- Offering financial advisory
- Keeping books and records
Track the experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA. Their CPA license must be granted by West Virginia or by any other state with the exception of Colorado, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands.
Complete the Experience Verification Form. The form is available for download from the WVBOA.
Ask the supervising CPA to complete his or her section of the form. That person must state the dates when you worked and list the kinds of responsibilities you performed. Finally, they must sign the document in the presence of a notary.
Apply for a CPA License in West Virginia
After you have met the requirements for education, examination, and experience in West Virginia you are eligible for a CPA license. Until that license is granted it is illegal to call yourself a CPA or offer the services of a CPA. Follow these steps to complete the final step:
Download the Application for Initial Certification/License from the WVBOA website. Complete the application, then submit it to 106 Capitol Street, Suite 100, Charleston, West Virginia 25301. Applicants must also submit these supplemental documents:
- An official transcript from the institution that awarded you a bachelor's degree
- The Experience Verification Form signed by the supervising CPA
If you have a CPA license from another state it's possible to expedite the licensure process in West Virginia. File an Application for Reciprocal License with the WVBOA. Also include a 2" x 2" photo, official college transcripts, and any applicable fees. It may also be necessary to file and Experience Verification Form. Call the board office at (304) 558-3557 to check.
If you have a CPA license from another country it may also be possible to expedite the licensure process. West Virginia follows guidelines established by the NASBA, which recognizes licenses from these international jurisdictions:
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia
- Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants
- Instituto Mexican de Contadores Publicos
- Chartered Accountants in Ireland
- New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants
- Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants
Candidates must pass the NASBA’s International Qualification Examination (IQEX) to demonstrate they have equivalent CPA skills. After passing they are able to apply for licensure in West Virginia. Applicants from non-approved jurisdictions must have their education evaluated by the NASBA International Evaluation Services and also pass the Uniform CPA Exam.
Keep Up With Continuing Education
A CPA must complete specific requirements for continuing professional education (CPE) in order for the WVBOA to renew their CPA license:
All CPAs are required to complete 40 hours of CPE every year. The only exemption is CPAs in their first year of licensure. They are not required to complete any CPE.
CPAs must complete 4 hours of ethics training in every three-year period. That includes training in ethical reasoning and professional conduct. The WVBOA has authorized several entities to provide this training:
- West Virginia Society of CPAs
- West Virginia Public Accountants Association
- West Virginia Tax Institute
- Local CPA societies
It is up to you to verify that all CPE hours meet the state's standards. They will not verify programs in advance. Those standards include:
- You cannot claim hours for any activity in which you provided a service, accounting or otherwise, to clients.
- You cannot claim hours spent giving presentations to groups of non-accounting professionals.
- Time spent writing informal reviews of professional journals or other accounting publications does not count.
- All CPE hours claimed must meet the standards set out in the Statement on Standards for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Programs issued jointly by AICPA and NASBA.
- Self-study courses count as long as you receive a certificate of completion.
- Published articles and books count as long as you are listed as a writer and have a statement from the publisher.
CPE hours are reported to the WVBOA using an online reporting tool. You are required to supply the name of the program, the dates of attendance, completion certificates, and any supplemental documents. CPAs must maintain their own records of CPE hours for at least 4 years in case of audit.